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One of my all-time favourite cities, and probably the most underrated, in Europe is Budapest.
Not only is it stupidly cheap, friendly, and exciting, but it is also an absolutely beauty to wander around.
With the two sides of the hilly affluent Buda, the flat cosmopolitan Pest, and the majestic Danube river flowing in between them you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied and intrigued when you pay a visit.
It is also a city which is steeped in colourful history and culture, so there’s definitely more to it than meets the eye.
As it can be a bit overwhelming to choose what to do on a city break to the capital of Hungary.
So, here is your Budapest Bucket List to ensure you experience some of the highlights with 10 unique things to do in Budapest!
Top tips and useful phrases for Budapest
Hungarian is notoriously one of the most difficult languages for foreigners to learn.
But there are a few phrases that may help as you’re wandering around;
Hello = Szia (see ya)
How are you? = Hogy Vagy (Hoj Vaj)
Please = Kerem (ke-rem)
Thank you = Kozi (Kossy)
Goodbye = Szia (see ya)
My particular favourite is Cheers! which translates to Egészségedre! Which can be a bit of a mouthful.
A useful hack that I learned on the walking tour there was if you say ‘I guess she can drive’ and say it really fast, you’ll be an expert in cheering your Schnapps there in no time!
11 top things to do in Budapest
1. Relax at the spa
Budapest is famous for its Thermal baths and is even nicknamed ‘the city of spas’, so it is an essential experience for any visit.
There are plenty to choose from as they are scattered around the city, but the most popular are Gellért and Széchenyi.
I paid a visit to the Szechenyi Spa and it was an amazing labyrinth of baths at different temperatures, steam rooms, and an outdoor heated pool which was gorgeously hot and kept you warm even with the bitter November cold!
There are all sorts of luxury packages available which include massages but you can just buy a basic ticket depending on your budget. I would highly recommend it.
2. Take a Champagne Night Cruise on the Danube
On my first night on landing in Hungary, I headed straight out of my hotel and onto the Danube for a starlit river cruise.
Here, you can see the UNESCO world heritage riverbanks light up under the night sky and enjoy a glass of Champagne as you sigh from the beauty!
Although you get one included, the champagne is super cheap at around £1 a glass so you can definitely afford a top-up.
My personal highlight was seeing the Hungarian Parliament building light up, it was marvellous.
Tickets are around £10 and can be booked online beforehand. Get in quick as spaces are limited in winter.
3. Take in the views from Fisherman’s Bastion
A famous vantage point and popular tourist spot in Budapest is the Fisherman’s Bastion.
From standing here on the Buda side you can get some incredible views of Pest.
What I loved about this view is seeing the amazing tiled rooftops of all buildings in the Jewish quarter!
Make sure you visit as the views are completely free and pretty as a postcard.
4. Join a Free Budapest Walking Tour
I am a sucker for a free walking tour. I find as a solo traveller not only does it allow me to meet people but I don’t feel so alone when I travel around.
It is a great way to bring any city alive as you have locals who are more than happy to rave about it.
The Budapest FREE walking tour will remain high on my list as the guides are funny, knowledgeable, and passionate about their city.
Although it says ‘free’, a tip is expected and you’ll find you get more than your money’s worth! You can book a tour beforehand here.
5. Go shopping at the Great Market Hall
A visit to the central market is a must. If you’re looking for souvenirs, to sample the local cuisine, or to buy Schnapps, this is the place.
Due to Russian influences, there are a lot of Matryoshka dolls and other similar gifts to take home.
If you’re after food, you can try Goulash, Pancakes, and other Hungarian delights at the food hall (make sure you buy some Schnapps to accompany it).
6. See the sun go down at Gellért Hill
A Viewpoint that, in my opinion, supersedes the fisherman’s Bastion is Gellért hill.
As you walk around the fort, you will have amazing 360-degree views of the city.
You can also look down at the vantage point over the Danube, and see the sunset and the city lights.
You can get here by taking the number 27 bus from Moricz Zsigmond ter, bring some Hungarian wine, snacks, and some traveller friends with you, and be prepared for an amazing show!
7. Enjoy a Night at the Opera
Although I would usually see a visit to the Opera as a splash-out, in Hungary it’s state-funded so you can get tickets for next to nothing.
You will be sitting in the gods, but you’ll still have a great view and get to see inside their amazing opera house!
The opulence is out of this world and the performances are top quality. Make sure you book yourself in for the evening.
8. Cross the Chain Bridge
There are many bridges that connect Buda to Pest but the chain bridge has to be the best of the best.
With the marvellous lions standing on guard on each side, you will get great views of the city as you walk over at any time of the day.
It is an architectural masterpiece that mustn’t be missed from your itinerary!
9. Tour the Hungarian Parliament building
The building is an iconic fixture on the city’s riverbank but if you’re curious to have a peek inside, there are tours that run daily.
Here, you will learn the history of the building and parliament, see where the sessions are held, and experience some amazingly lavish rooms!
It’s worth a visit but go early or book tickets beforehand. Tickets are around £5.
10. See the Shoes on the Danube Bank
Built as a memorial to the Jews who lost their lives during World War II, it is a moving and artistic sight to behold at the same time.
The story goes that the Jewish citizens were told to take off their shoes and were killed by the Arrow Cross at the riverside, with their bodies floating downstream.
Moved by this story, a local film director and sculptor decided to commemorate them with their shoes eternally by the river.
It is definitely worth a visit and is located down the bank from the Parliament building.
11. Rock out at a Ruin Pub
One of the coolest things about Budapest is its intriguing nightlife.
When I first heard of the Ruin Pubs there, I instantly felt compelled to find out what they were all about!
Using old buildings which were due to be demolished, the youth of Budapest transformed these into Pubs to be enjoyed for a night on the town.
These are seriously some of the coolest pubs I have been to in Europe and you need to visit.
Here, you can see bands, enjoy drinks and there are plenty of rooms available.
Out of all the Ruin Pubs, the highlight has to be Szimpla Kert.
Boasting around 20 rooms all with different adventures, you can watch movies, bands, sit in abandoned cars, and smoke sheesha to your heart’s content!
So, there you have it – a mighty Budapest Bucket List
There is plenty more to get stuck into when visiting this incredible city so be set for an urban adventure.
If you’re stuck for time, you can get a Metro pass to speed up your journey time between each attraction, but I personally preferred walking around as there are gems hidden on every street corner here.
It is a seriously underrated city and if you are undecided on whether to put it on your European itinerary, I would definitely say YES!
Budapest is truly magnificent and it waits to delight in you.